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Dell promises to simplify IoT

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As companies face the challenge of analysing massive amounts of data generated by connected devices, says Dell, computing must moves from the centre to the edge.

At the Dell EMC World expo in Las Vegas this week, Dell Technologies announced new Internet of Things (IoT) products and partnerships that it promises will help customers take the complexity out of their IoT deployments and more quickly realise Digital Transformation.

According to a recent Gartner report, there will be 20.4-billion connected things in use globally by 2020.  Companies are looking for faster, real-time analysis of the massive amount of data produced by all of these “things” on their networks. For some, it’s too expensive to move all the data from the edge of the network near the devices to the data centre. Computing at the edge helps determine which data sets are interesting, relevant and need to be sent back to the data center or the cloud for further analytics and longer term storage, saving bandwidth and reducing costs and security concerns.

Dell Technologies announced the following new IoT Products and Services:

Simplified “Things” Management – The new VMware Pulse IoT Center is a secure IoT infrastructure management solution that will enable customers to have complete control of their connected things. VMware Pulse IoT Center will help customers to more efficiently manage, operate, scale and protect their IoT projects from the edge to the cloud. Dell will be offering VMware Pulse IoT Center as the preferred enterprise management and monitoring solution for Dell Edge Gateways. By plugging Pulse IoT Center into the new EdgeX Foundry, VMware will be able to offer system and device management for the EdgeX ecosystem.

IoT Advisory Services – IoT Technology Advisory Service is a new consulting offer from Dell EMC Services to help organizations determine the key capabilities and architecture required to leverage IoT data (e.g., sensors, beacons, gateways, mobile phones, wearables, connected devices). This information can be used for initiatives such as optimizing key operational processes, reducing compliance and security risks, uncovering new revenue opportunities and creating more compelling customer engagements.

Open Source Framework for Interoperable Edge Computing – The Linux Foundation recently launched EdgeX Foundry, an open source software project chartered to build a common framework and surrounding reference platform for edge computing. It will drive interoperability between proprietary value-added applications and existing connectivity standards. It was started by a community of more than 50 companies such as AMD, Analog Devices, Dell EMC, Foghorn and VMware to enable an ecosystem of plug-and-play components that can be combined to quickly create secure and scalable IoT solutions. Dell contributed more than a dozen microservices and over 125,000 lines of source code under Apache 2.0 to seed the project, additional contributions are already underway from other members. EdgeX Foundry is architected to operate on any hardware, on any operating system and with microservices developed in any application environment for maximum scale.

Carefully Curated Partnerships

Dell has carefully curated a group of IoT software and services partners through the Dell IoT Solutions Partner and Dell EMC Partner Programs. Many partners have deep, proven expertise in industry-specific IoT challenges, and can help with everything from managing multiprotocol data sources to security to analytics. New partners recently added to the program include Atos, Bosch, GreatBay Software, ForgeRock, IOTech, Mocana and Modius.

Today’s key IoT partner news includes:

  • Dell and Bosch have jointly developed an Industry 4.0 jump start kit to help customers implement IoT projects quickly to realize faster ROI. The kit consists of multiple Bosch XDK sensors, a Dell Edge Gateway, ready-to-go use-cases, cloud integration and software, all preconfigured.
  • Atos and Dell EMC are working together to build an IoT service management framework, Atos Codex IoT Services, to allow customers to be assured that all users can continuously create value from their connected devices.

Dell Technologies – An IoT Heavyweight

Dell Technologies is the industry’s broadest Internet of Things (IoT) infrastructure solutions provider. The company offers a complete edge-to-core-to-cloud portfolio of infrastructure for IoT solutions that includes everything from infrastructure, embedded PCs, IoT gateways, security and manageability solutions and more.

Dell Technologies’ capabilities in IoT allow for fast innovation and simplified integration and include:

  • More than 30 years of IT heritage and more than 15 years of operations technology (OT) experience through the Dell EMC OEM Solutions team – deep understanding of both IT and OT, critical for successful IoT implementations
  • Technology and expertise of Pivotal to rapidly develop and update cloud-native software
  • Dell EMC infrastructure for storing and analyzing the data that the “things” generate
  • Ruggedized, purpose-built IoT hardware designed to collect data at the edge of the network including Dell Edge Gateways and Dell Embedded Box PCs
  • A curated Dell IoT Solutions Partner Program with more than 70 technology and services partners
  • Trusted security solutions from RSA and SecureWorks that ensure data is transferred securely and quickly
  • Industry-leading global service and support and financing options
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Africa News

Smart grids needed for Africa’s utilities

Power utilities across Africa should rethink their business models and how they manage and monetise their assets to keep pace with the changing energy ecosystem, says COLIN BEANEY, Global Industry Director for Asset-intensive and Energy and Utilities at IFS.

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Africa’s abundant natural resources and urgent need for power mean that it is one of the most exciting and innovative energy markets in a world that is moving rapidly towards clean, renewable energy sources. The continent’s energy industry is taking new approaches to providing unserved and underserved communities with access to power, with an emphasis on smart technologies and greener energy sources.

Power systems are evolving from centralised, top-down systems as interest in off-grid technology grows among African businesses and consumers. And according to PwC, we will see installed power capacity rise from 2012’s 90GW to 380GW in 2040 in sub-Saharan Africa. Power utilities are needing to rethink their business models and how they manage and monetise their assets to keep pace with the changing energy ecosystem.

Energy and utilities providers are transforming from centralised supply companies to more distributed, bi-directional service providers. They can only achieve this through the evolution of “smart grids” where sensors and smart meters will be able to provide the consumer with a more granular level of detail of power usage. This shift from an energy supplier to “lifestyle provider” will require a much more dynamic and optimised approach to maintenance and field service.

African companies must thus embrace digital transformation as an imperative. This transformation begins by embracing enterprise asset management to improve asset utilisation. The subsequent steps are enhancing upstream and downstream supply chain management; resource optimisation; introducing enterprise operational intelligence; embracing new technologies such as the Internet of Things, machine learning, and predictive maintenance; and becoming a smart utility.

Embracing mobility to drive ROI

Getting it right is about putting in place an enterprise backbone that accommodates asset and project management, multinational languages and currencies, new energies and markets, visualisation of the entire value chain, and mobility apps. Mobile technologies that support the field workforce have a vital role to play in driving better ROI from utilities’ investments in enterprise asset management and enterprise resource planning solutions.

Today’s leading enterprise asset management solutions feature powerful functionality for mobile management of the complete workflow of work orders – from logging status changes and updates, from receiving and creating new orders to concluding the job and reporting time, material and expenses. Such solutions are easy to deploy and intuitive for end users to learn and use.

Importantly for organisations operating in parts of the continent with poor telecoms infrastructure, connectivity is not an issue. The solutions work offline and synchronises when network connectivity is available. Users can work on any device—laptops, tablets, and smartphones—commercial or ruggedised.

By ensuring that field technicians have easy access to information and processes, the mobile solution enables technicians and maintenance engineers to easily do the following tasks:

·         Create a new work order on the fly and log new opportunities

·         Access both historical and planned work information when requested

·         Permit customers to sign when the job is completed

·         Capture measurements and inspection notes on route work orders

·         Create new fault reports on routing

·         Facilitate documentation through photo capturing

·         Provide easy access to technical data and preventive actions.

The power of mobility allows the engineer to be the origin of all data capture on a service event. They can easily inquire on asset history, record parts used or parts needed for repair, record labour hours, and expenses as they occur, and any notes of repairs performed. When coupled with workforce management tools, such solutions unlock significant productivity gains for utilities who are trying to get the most from their workforce and assets.

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Brands fall for app vanity

The experience of a mobile screen full of icons, representing independent apps that your need to open to experience them, is making less sense. Instead, businesses should serve customers with an ‘app-like’ experience inside the digital platform they already use, says PIETER DE VILLIERS, Group CEO at Clickatell.

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Many brands remain obsessed with creating mobile apps. This not only defies trends that point to increasing consumer app apathy, but can exclude a sizeable portion  of your customers in emerging economies. Companies need to engage with their users where they are rather than forcing them onto an app, in what can only be described as brand vanity. 

In 2017 there were around 2.2 million apps available in the iOS app store and over 3 million on Google Play. And, while the number of apps being downloaded continues to rise, analysis shows that consumers are only using 30 apps per month and accessing just 9 on a day-to-day basis. 

While these numbers still seem attractively high, in reality the majority of the apps we use are for messaging (like Facebook Messenger, WhatsApp, and WeChat) and our social networking, gaming, leisure, dating or utility activities. 

Despite the facts, the application strategy as the holy grail for digital transformation is still being pushed even within large progressive brands. What’s more, some advertising agencies and digital consultants are still pushing apps as the best means for companies to connect with their customers. This has resulted in some organisations stubbornly doubling down on app strategies which are simply not showing return on investment (ROI). 

It’s not immediately clear to us whether the fascination with apps is a roll-over from long overdue projects or whether brand owners equate a mobile-first strategy with a mobile app. Mobile-first in 2018 means customer first, and therefore embracing chat commerce in order to deliver services with convenience and simplicity in mind. 

Why apps won’t win the internet

The problem with apps goes beyond user fatigue. In the first instance, many apps are poorly designed, assuming technical sophistication which may not match reality for the average customer. Poor user interfaces and attempts to provide complex engagement can result in even the best ideas missing their targets due to lack of engagement. 

Secondly, we all know that economic realities drive consumer behaviour. In Africa, new mobile phone users typically opt for feature phones over smartphones. With a longer battery life and a much more accessible price point, feature phones still allow for a basic internet connection, chat platforms like WhatsApp, and call and message functionality. In these regions, the cost of an app – even if it’s free – goes far beyond installing it. Constant updates require reliable and cheap access to the internet. For the average phone owner in an emerging market, this can be a serious challenge. 

Thirdly, and most importantly, apps must be relevant to their intended market. Frequency of usage is a key measure of relevance. 

Apps which are used on a daily basis, like health and fitness trackers, enjoy constant engagement. New features which are added are eagerly awaited by users who are happy to update their apps. 

However, users may well question the relevance of the app if they are required to conduct updates on a monthly or even weekly basis when they are only making use of the app once or twice a year. 

On average, I download one app per quarter. Some I use more frequently than others, but all of these apps need to be regularly updated to maintain security, update features, and fix bugs. Many apps are pushing out updates much more frequently. I noticed over the past year that I could go from having all apps updated, to 32 apps requiring an update in five days.

When it comes to a customer-first digital strategy, companies should be asking themselves if an app is really the best way to reach their target audience. 

In fact, at the end of 2016, Gartner predicted that by 2019, 20 percent of brands would ditch their mobile app. What’s more, in its 2018 predictions, the company forecast that by 2021, more than 50 percent of corporations would spend more per annum on bots and chatbots than on mobile app development. 

So, we need to ask, what is the alternative for CIOs, CDOs, CMOs, and digital leaders who are looking for ways to reach, retain and grow their customer base? 

The logical app alternative 

The old battle advice goes: fight your enemy where they are not. Military strategists agreed that having your enemy come to you and fight you on your own terms was preferable. In a world where customers have access to thousands of offerings and millions of deals online, we need to flip that idea to Meet Your Customers Where They Are. 

Any marketeer will tell you just a how difficult it is to drive app downloads. Development, cross platform testing and user interface aside, the marketing campaign required to get customers to download the app can swallow entire annual budgets and still come up short. 

Looking at the facts, it makes infinitely more sense to work within the digital platforms already being used by your target audience. 

Clickatell is already enabling chat commerce for some of the leading global brands with its Touch solution. This allows organisations to serve their customers with an ‘app-like’ experience inside the chat or browser platform of their customer’s choice (Twitter, Facebook Messenger, etc.) 

Brands can now send an actionable Touch link such as ‘find the nearest ATM’ or ‘reset my password’ within a chat stream that will open an intuitive touch card without the user having to download an app to perform the action. Services can also be linked to the in-app experience for brands not looking to abandon their app efforts. 

Working with our clients, many of whom are global innovators and thought leaders, we’ve found that having the courage to design with an ‘end user first’ approach and dealing with the back-end complexity behind the scenes results in cost efficient customer delight and ROI. 

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